I have just endured the worst storytime I’ve ever been a part of. Since I’m a big believer both in learning from professional failures and from sharing semi-traumatic experiences with unknown strangers on the internet, here is my story.
It’s preschool day here at the library. Our preschool storyime age range is 4s and 5s. Everyone else has their own, developmentally appropriate programs. We call this one Little Learners because, although everyone learns in storytime, this is more obviously trying to hit all of the educational bases to get kids ready for Kindergarten. Ordinarily, this is my favorite age group for storytime. They’re finally getting old enough to be actual people and not demon spawn hopped up on Red Bull (I’m looking at you, toddlers)!
This is my smallest storytime. Most kids of this age group are in formal preschool here because everyone has hella $$$. I do usually have a core group of about 7 kiddos who have been coming for the past year or so. Every now and then we have a few new kids mixed in but I can pretty much plan on seeing mostly the same faces every week. These little dudes know me, they know the routine, and they’re pretty willing to try new stuff.
This week, every single kid in storytime was totally new to me. All 10 of them. Not one familiar face. This was also the week in which I planned to do some experimenting with our structure by introducing more participatory games and two big books, one of which was a wordless book. Shit.
Most of these kids had never been to any storytime before, much less my storytime. On top of that, everyone was either too young (still in diapers) or too old (young school age). It irks me when people bring kids to the wrong storytime when I offer developmentally appropriate programming for all ages in multiple sessions every single week (another post, another time). I never turn kids away based on their age but things inevitably don’t go nearly as well when we’ve got a bad mash up.
We got through our first book okay. One of the kids was frustrated that I was reading somewhat slowly (in order to read clearly) and kept trying to read ahead of me in a super loud voice. I stopped several times to ask him to whisper the word to himself if he wanted to read aloud with me but to no avail. His caregiver tried to help out but he just wasn’t down for cooperating.
Since the kids were mostly new to storytime, they were quite reluctant to participate in the activities so it was mostly me, going through the motions as enthusiastically as possible. As anyone who has ever done a storytime can tell you, the energy in the room impacts performance. As much as I try to keep things upbeat, pulling teeth for 30 minutes to kids who have zero interest in being there quickly grows frustrating.
By the time we got to our second book, things were not going well at all. I figured I’d at least try to get through some of the book and see what happened. It was Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert. We got through letter A-C before a kid came up and yanked the book out of my hand, ripping the page out as he went. Oooookay then.
I stopped right then and there and quickly transitioned into our goodbye song. We skipped the customary free play session after the program and I sent them on their way.
I genuinely hope that these kids come back to another storytime session and get the full, good experience. I certainly need a do-over.